Terrorism Expert and Executive Director
Investigative Project on Terrorism
November 8, 2005
Testimony of Steven Emerson
Before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee
"Saudi Arabia: Friend or Foe in the War on Terror"
November 8, 2005
The Investigative Project on Terrorism
5505 Conn. Ave NW #341
Washington DC 20015
fax 202 966 5191
Table of Contents
Appendix 1: CAIR's Response to Reports of Islamic Extremism, the 9/11 Report and the Freedom House Report on Saudi Funding of Radical Activities in the United States.......i
Appendix 2: Neil MacFarquhar, "Saudis Uneasily Balance Desires for Change and Stability," New York Times, May 4, 2004.........................................................vi
Appendix 3: Joseph Braude, "Something's Gotta Give," The New Republic Online,
Dec. 3, 2004 ..........................................................................................x
Appendix 4: "Stop Terror Sheikhs, Muslim Academics Demand," The Arab News,
Oct. 30, 2004 ......................................................................................xiii
Appendix 5: Ain-Al-Yaqeen, March 1, 2002...................................................xiv
Appendix 6: Letters from Senator Charles Schumer to Treasury Secretary
John Snow and Attorney General John Ashcroft, September 17, 2003.....................xxi
At the Investigative Project on Terrorism, we have been investigating and tracking radical Islamic organizations and funding for 10 years. We have now compiled one of the largest intelligence archives on radical Islam in the world today. We work closely with law enforcement, the intelligence community, Congress and the media. In tracking Al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist movements, I have been specifically monitoring and investigating Saudi funding and linkages since the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. My interest in how Saudi Arabia has used its petrodollar revenues to promote and legitimize radical views actually goes back to the mid-1980's when I authored my first book, The American House of Saud: the Secret Petrodollar Connection (Franklin and Watts, 1985). The book exposed the political strings attached to Saudi funding of academic centers in the United States. Now, 20 years later, I have found myself returning over and over again to the same problem.
In the years prior to 9-11, the U.S. government paid little attention to the flow of money and religious propaganda exported worldwide from Saudi Arabia. During that period, an elaborate network of Saudi-funded and directed charities, foundations and Islamic propagation centers were created, which in turn funded Islamic organizations, schools and radical movements around the world. Because of its vast petrodollar riches, Saudi Arabia's version of Islam -- a puritanical interpretation often described in short hand as Wahabism -- succeeded in indoctrinating young Muslims, controlling the religious direction of major Islamic religious institutions and in extending the Wahabist doctrine to the four corners of the Earth. The paper trail of Saudi money, funneled through a vast network of charities and religious organizations, has led to some of the most violent terrorist groups in the world, including Al-Qaeda and Hamas.
Saudi officials have long asserted publicly and in private discussions with U.S. officials that the government cannot be held responsible for the actions of non-governmental groups, private donors and corporations, the media and religious leaders. But in fact, much of the non-governmental network in Saudi Arabia was created by Saudi government officials to provide an arm's length relationship and has long been funded by Saudi government line items or by members of the Royal Family. The Wahabist-dominated religious hierarchy in Saudi Arabia was and is tightly controlled by the Saudi regime and Royal Family.
Terrorism requires three primary ingredients: Indoctrination, recruitment and financing. Often, the connections are not neatly compartmentalized, largely because of the intricate and complex ways employed to launder funding to terrorist groups and the larger extremist social-religious organizations from which terrorists recruit. Other times, the evidence shows that non-governmental organizations carry out, to a large degree, activities that are totally legitimate and legal; indeed it is the very external legitimacy of these groups that provide the perfect cover to siphon off, divert or launder financial support or provide cover to terrorist cells. Sometimes the Saudi donors were unaware of where their funds were being applied or how they were ultimately used. And in many cases, the Saudi-generated funding and direction for Islamic "humanitarian" or "religious" activities abroad was given in the noble Islamic tradition of Zakat or charity. Some of the recipients, in turn, used the funds to empower and extend the influence of militant Islam through the carrying out of humanitarian services that Arab governments had failed to provide.
Since 9-11, Saudi officials repeatedly have maintained that they have curtailed any support to terrorist groups by Saudi charitable foundations, that they have embarked on an effort to rein in extremist religious ideology, that they have institutionalized new rules of transparency, and that they are as adamant in condemning terrorism as the United States. Towards that end the Saudis have announced several high profile actions, including the alleged shut-down of the Al-Haramain Foundation ("AHF"), the creation of a new U.S.-Saudi commission to monitor terrorist financing, the establishment of a centralized Saudi clearinghouse for all charities, the hosting of an international counter-terror conference, the curbing of extremist propaganda, and a host of other initiatives to stop the spread of terrorism.
But the question that must be asked is whether there is any significant substance to these declarations and announcements. One of the problems for US officials is how to independently determine the true extent to which these announcements have been translated into action. There is a justified skepticism at taking these declarations at face value. While there have been some positive steps taken by Saudi Arabia that can be independently confirmed, a review of other Saudi pronouncements in the past two years strongly suggests that Saudi Arabia has failed to carry out some of the publicly-proclaimed reforms, while in other cases, there is not enough independent evidence to determine whether Saudi Arabia has followed up on its pledges.
There is no doubt that as the result of the Al Qaeda attacks in Saudi Arabia in 2003, the regime itself has declared war on the internal Saudi terrorist infrastructure, killing some two dozen Al Qaeda terrorists and arresting scores of others. And to give credit where it is due, there have also been credible efforts to begin sanitizing some of the publications, websites and religious dogma published by the regime or Saudi charities but in general, the Saudi war against the Al-Qaeda network in Saudi Arabia has not been translated into systematic corollary measures against Islamic terror networks outside the Kingdom.
Defenders of the current Administration policy of not publicly confronting the Saudis point to the fact that Saudi Arabia has engaged in an aggressive campaign to root out Al Qaeda cells in the Kingdom, an effort largely triggered by the series of attacks launched by those cells beginning in 2003. To be sure, Saudi Arabia engaged in a systematic effort to destroy the Al Qaeda infrastructure on Saudi home soil. And the country has cooperated with the U.S. in some other areas, including the extradition of accused terrorist suspect Abu Ali and in starting to impose some central authority on some of the previously untracked "private" funding from Saudis going to radical Islamic causes. Indeed, some U.S. officials with whom I have spoken say they have met Saudi counterparts who are genuinely committed to stopping the spread of Islamic extremist propaganda.
Still other arguments for not pushing the Saudis too far revolve around the fear that such pressure could destabilize the regime and ultimately lead to a takeover by even more radical forces, such as those aligned with Osama bin Laden.
? Saudi organizations and leaders operating with the permission or acquiescence of the Saudi regime continue to spout virulent anti-Western propaganda and thereby raise serious questions as to whether Saudi Arabia is trying to comprehensively crack down on the sources and support for Islamist terrorism.
? While there have been some efforts to sanitize Saudi websites, publications and textbooks of religious hatred, the record of demonstrable and provable changes is spotty at best and at worst devoid of any substance. Publications from Saudi Arabia and Saudi websites, either officially operated by the regime or those of non-government organizations, continue to spread an extremist view of Islam throughout the world.
? Although there have been some constraints imposed by the Saudi government, Saudi Arabian religious charities and non-governmental organizations ("NGOs") still disseminate or propagate intolerance and anti-Semitic and anti-Christian dogma.
? Revised banking regulations designed to control the flow of charities have not been applied to three of the most prominent and radical organizations, the Muslim World League ("MWL"), the World Assembly of Muslim Youth ("WAMY") and the International Islamic Relief Organization ("IIRO").
? Saudi funding of Hamas has continued as new conduits have been created.
? Saudi government officials, religious leaders and members of the Royal Family continue to level anti-Semitic allegations of conspiracies. Persecution of Christians has not abated.
? Senior Saudi religious figures have continued to call for jihad against the United States.
? Saudi officials in the United States and American recipients of Saudi funds continue to detract attention from the extremists' actions by alleging that the campaign against Saudi extremism is "racist" and that it has led to "hate crimes" against American Muslims.
Saudi Arabia and Persecution of Christians
The religious freedoms that Muslims seek -- and are accorded -- in the United States and elsewhere in the West are far from reciprocated in Saudi Arabia. Indeed, the Kingdom has made it illegal to promote any religion other than Islam, and it continues to outlaw churches.
The State Department listed Saudi Arabia as a "country of particular concern" in its September 2004 report on the state of religious freedom in more than 190 countries. The report accused the Saudis of "particularly severe violations" of religious freedom.
Consider these recent examples:
? The Washington-based watchdog group, International Christian Concern, reported this past June that Saudi security and religious police had engaged in what it termed a "pogrom-like" crackdown against Christians in the wake of reports of the desecration of the Quran at the military prison camp in Guantanamo, Cuba. The group said it had received reports of 46 confirmed arrests.
? At about the same time, the religious news agency Asianews reported the arrest of eight Protestant Christians, including two Indians. The Rome-based agency -- affiliated with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions -- reported that the Saudi religious police, the Muttawa, had arrested an evangelical Christian from India and seized a bible and addresses. That event led to the arrest of seven other members of an evangelical group, including an immigrant worker whose apartment was used for Christian meetings, said the Asianews website.
? On April 23, the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh reported that the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, or religious police, had arrested 40 Pakistani men and women in the Saudi capital two days earlier for "setting up a church" with crosses, pictures and statues in what it called a "deserted palace." Agence France-Presse said they had been celebrating a Catholic mass in a private house.
An official of a U.S.-based human rights organization was quoted in May as saying that Saudi religious authorities most often target the Filipino Christian community. Americans are usually left alone, said Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom of Freedom House, because "[i]n the calculation of the Saudis, Americans only care about American Christians."
Dissemination of Anti-Semitic and Anti-Israel Dogma Continues
Anti-Semitic conspiratorial allegations have been embedded in Saudi religious and political dogma for decades. Persistent allegations that Jews, Christians, Westerners, and other "enemies of the Kingdom" are responsible for Saudi woes strongly belies the notion that Saudi Arabia is sincere in its public condemnations of terrorism.
As documented so well by the Middle East Media Research Institute ("MEMRI"), leading Saudi officials and clerics continue to allege classical anti-Semitic conspiracies. Instead of condemning such extremism, Saudi officials in the United States have gone to great lengths in refusing to criticize these outrageous statements. For example, then-Saudi Ambassador, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, appeared on NBC's Meet the Press on April 25, 2004. Anchor Tim Russert asked guest Prince Bandar whether the statement made in 2003 by Saudi Interior Minister Nayef that the "Zionists" were responsible for the 9-11 attacks was the position of the Saudi government. "No," said Bandar, but then added, "I don't know what circumstances this quote was made." I fail to see how there could be any "circumstances" in which such a falsehood could be legitimately uttered. Bandar, of course, could have unambiguously condemned such a statement and taken the opportunity before an American audience to formally disassociate the Saudi government from it. Instead, he felt compelled to issue one of those rhetorical qualifiers that in the end leaves open the notion that the anti-Semitism underlying Prince Nayef's comment could actually be legitimate.
In early 2004, Al Qaeda terrorists launched a series of attacks in Saudi Arabia. Following one such attack in the Saudi port city of Yanbu, Crown Prince Abdullah asserted that "Zionist elements" were behind the attacks. As first noted by MEMRI in a May 3, 2004 dispatch, the official government Saudi Press Agency ("SPA") disseminated a story with the headline: "SPA - Crown Prince says Zionism is behind the actions in the kingdom." The Saudi story then reported that Crown Prince Abdallah asserted on May 2, in front of Saudi officials and Royal Family members, "It became clear to us now that Zionism is behind terrorist actions in the kingdom. I can say that I am 95% sure of that."
Abdullah's comments were immediately amplified by Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal as he made even more conspiratorial allegations in the Arab media. For example, in an interview on Abu Dhabi television, Al-Faisal stated that the attacks were perpetrated by two pro-Al Qaeda Saudi exiles who were "financed by Israel:"
The Saudi government is determined to strike with an iron fist in fighting this deviant group and rooting out the terrorists. The exiled dissidents are associated with pro-Israel groups. As everyone knows from (Monday's) Interior Ministry statement, the leader of the latest attack had links with the renegades (Saad) Al-Faqih and (Mohammed) Al-Masari. Although these two renegades have no weight whatsoever, it is known that they have contacts with, and even financing from, sides connected to Israel.
Asked by the television interviewer to explain the comments about "Zionists" made by the Saudi Crown Prince, al-Faisal responded with even more anti-Semitic conspiratorial allegations, asserting a secret collusion between "the Zionists, the terrorists and the Kingdom's enemies abroad":
It is no secret that extremist Zionist elements are waging a fierce campaign against Saudi Arabia, leveling false accusations and fabricated slanders at the Kingdom. The desperate attempt by the terrorist group to undermine security, stability and national unity serves the interests of these Zionist elements, which makes the convergence of goals tantamount to evidence of some kind of link between the Zionists, the terrorists and the Kingdom's enemies abroad.
The effort to pin the terrorist attacks on Saudi Arabia on some type of secret plot by Israel was not limited to Saudi officials on their home turf. Adel Al-Jubeir, a prominent Saudi official attached to the Saudi Embassy in Washington and top aide to then-Ambassador Prince Bander, was interviewed on CNN on May 13, 2004. In the course of that interview, anchor Wolf Blitzer asked Al-Jubeir about the comments made by Crown Prince Abdullah. The exchange below is illuminating and disturbing as the comments made by Al-Jubeir show that he inverts reality in portraying criticism of Saudi extremism as actually a plot to destroy the regime. Time and time again, Blitzer offered Al-Jubeir an opportunity to disavow the conspiratorial allegations made by Saudi leaders about a secret Zionist plot. But Al-Jubeir refused to criticize the comments. Instead, he repeatedly portrayed Saudi Arabia as the victim of a conspiracy to "destroy it" claiming that the Zionist critics of the regime effectively were colluding with Al Qaeda: Although ordinarily I would have attached the transcript as an appendix , the exchange of comments between Al-Jubeir in response to the questions by Blitzer was so compelling that I have included the entire transcript below:
BLITZER: Your Crown Prince Abdullah, he made a very controversial statement, as you well know, a couple weeks ago. I want our viewers to listen precisely to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWN PRINCE ABDULLAH, SAUDI ARABIA (through translator): I don't say -- it's not 100 percent, but 95 percent that the Zionist hands are behind what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He was accusing Zionists of that most recent terror attack in Riyadh. On the basis of what?
AL-JUBEIR: I believe, Wolf, if you look at the context of it, the point that he was trying to make is that there are people in the United States who have been very harsh when it comes to Saudi Arabia, have called for regime change in Saudi Arabia, have called for the dismemberment of Saudi Arabia, and whose -- the objectives that they have called for are the same objectives as those shared by the terrorists.
Osama bin Laden wants to destroy the Saudi state. Osama bin Laden wants to destroy the Saudi government. And so you should understand these comments in that context, that those who are most critical of Saudi Arabia in a very hostile way in the United States, as well as in Israel, share the same objective as Osama bin Laden and those who committed these acts
BLITZER: You're saying that people in Israel want to see Saudi Arabia destroyed?
AL-JUBEIR: No, I'm saying there are some people. We have books that have been published about Saudi Arabia, have been called the "Hatred's Kingdom." There have been calls by some for regime change in Saudi Arabia, for putting Saudi Arabia on the axis of evil. It's really that kind of attitude that is shared by Osama bin Laden.
BLITZER: Is the crown prince, who's the effective leader of Saudi Arabia, equating al Qaeda with Zionists?
AL-JUBEIR: That's not what he was trying to say here. What he was trying to say is that the objectives of those people who have been most harsh toward Saudi Arabia are the same as the objectives of Osama bin Laden. It doesn't mean that they committed this crime.
BLITZER: Because we listened closely to that tape and we had several Arab linguists listen precisely. And what he clearly said was that he believes 95 percent -- not 100 percent, but 95 percent -- that the people who undertook this most recent terror attack in Saudi Arabia was not al Qaeda, but were Zionists.
AL-JUBEIR: That they were behind them when somebody calls for regime change in Saudi Arabia, as we have a number of people here in the United States when people call for dismemberment of Saudi Arabia.
You'll recall the infamous briefing before the Defense Policy Board where the analyst made the case that we should take Saudi out of Arabia. That is not much different from the mind-set of Osama bin Laden, which wants to also replace the Saudi government and install instead a Taliban-like regime.
When you say behind them, it means supporting them intellectually. That doesn't mean financially. It doesn't mean that they put them up to it. It just means that they share the same objective.
BLITZER: Because U.S. officials clearly say that most recent terror attack in Riyadh and all the other ones were the work of al Qaeda.
AL-JUBEIR: We agree.
BLITZER: You agree?
AL-JUBEIR: So have we. Our Interior Ministry issued a statement to that effect. The person who was the ringleader of the attack is a known person, a dissident. He was on -- on our list of -- sorry -- terrorists. He was on the list of most wanted individuals in Saudi Arabia. His picture was plastered all over the country.
BLITZER: Do you want to issue any sort of apology for the comments of your boss, the Crown Prince Abdullah?
AL-JUBEIR: Why apology? I was explaining it to you. There's no apology necessary.
BLITZER: Because of the impression that he left that for that most recent terror attack he was blaming Zionists.
AL-JUBEIR: Because, Wolf, what happens with Saudi Arabia, unfortunately, after 9/11 is anything that Saudi Arabia does or says is perceived with a lot of criticism.
It's sort of, we are guilty until proven innocent. It should be the other way around. And so nobody cuts us any slack. And every little thing is exaggerated. Every little thing is inflated. I can look at statements by American officials. I can look at statements by officials of other countries that are outrageous and that have not solicited apologies from them or from anyone else. But when it comes to us, we're always the ones who have to apologize. I don't see a reason to do this here.
Saudi Public Relations: A Lack of Frankness
Saudi representatives in the US have gone further in trying to deny responsibility for radical statements. One extraordinary example occurred earlier this year and was the subject of an NBC News exclusive. NBC obtained an audiotape of Sheik Saleh Al Luhaidan, chief justice of Saudi Arabia's Supreme Judicial Council, exhorting young Muslims to go to Iraq to participate in the jihad against American forces. According to the report, NBC asked Saudi officials for their reaction. Their response? Saudi officials falsely claimed that the tape was a fabrication. NBC then contacted the Sheik directly in Saudi Arabia who admitted he had made the recording. According to NBC, "A Saudi spokesman twice denied the tape was authentic, claiming Saudi intelligence analysts determined it was 'a crude fake.' So NBC News called Luhaidan himself, in Saudi Arabia, and played the tape. Luhaidan confirmed those were his words, saying in Arabic, 'Yes, this is my voice.'"
In response to repeated criticism of its ties to militant Islam, Saudi Arabia has embarked on an assiduous public relations campaign to portray itself as opposed to terrorism. In February of this year, the regime hosted a lavish international "anti-terrorism" conference with participation from 50 countries, including a high ranking delegation of more than a dozen officials from the United States, and about 10 Arab and Muslim NGOs. But in terms of substance, the conference was an exercise in grand deception, designed to literally purchase U.S. and Western goodwill thru the orchestration of superficial anti-terrorism claims. In the end, the estimated tens of thousands of dollars spent by the U.S. government on travel and other conference-related expenses amounted to a mass subsidy to a vast Saudi public relations campaign to sanitize its image in the West.
At the outset, it was easily discernible that the conference was meant only as a public relations play for Saudi Arabia, a fact that could have been instantly deduced from the attendance roster. Included in the official visiting delegations were representatives of two of the leading state-supporters of terrorism, Syria and Iran, and of Sudan, a militant regime engaged in a genocidal campaign in Darfur. Another official delegation, sitting alongside all the foreign missions, was the Muslim World League, a notoriously extremist Saudi charity long-linked to the spread of Islamic radicalism.
Over the course of the four-day conference, the Saudi hosts were able to lead a chorus of those in attendance in condemning "terrorism" over and over again while also announcing new efforts to stop "terrorist financing," the creation of a new Saudi anti-terrorist center and countless other proposals and initiatives. But there was never any specific description or definition of the "terrorism" they were condemning. The final communiqué of the Riyadh conference included this clause: "The Conference affirmed that terrorism has no particular religion, race, nationality or geographical area. In this context, it stressed that any attempt to link terrorism with any religion is helpful only to the terrorists." Actually, the refusal to name Islamic terrorism or Islamic extremism as the core problem is of much more assistance to the terrorists. This is not, as the communiqué asserted, a matter of linking a religion to terrorism. It is Islamic terrorists who have invoked their interpretation of Islam and thus are motivated by religious doctrine. And it is Islamic militants who want to blur the distinction between Islam and militant Islam by accusing the West of engaging in a war against Islam. The unwillingness to acknowledge the very problem of Islamic terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism as stemming from a particular religious ideology thus renders any pronouncements against the general threat of terrorism to be devoid of any real meaning.
The fear of maligning a religion expressed by the Saudi hosts was not as evident when it came to "the Jews." As Glenn Simpson of The Wall Street Journal has reported in his account of the conference, one of the materials given to the outside media was an essay by Abdullah al Obeid that blamed stories linking terrorism and Islam on "some mass media centers that are managed and run by Jews in the West." Mr. Simpson wrote, "[u]nder his leadership, Mr. Obeid added, the Muslim World League organized symposiums to explain that Palestinian attacks on Israelis 'are conducted in self-defense and they are lawful and approved by all religious standards, international treaties, norms and announcements.' He made no distinction between attacks on civilians and soldiers."
The author of the book was a long-time MWL official, Mr. Obeid, who, Mr. Simpson reported, had served as "secretary general of MWL from 1995 to 2002, a period when the huge Saudi government-funded organization fell under intense scrutiny from Asia to North America for spending tens of millions of dollars to finance the spread of Saudi Arabia's austere brand of fundamentalist Islam." Immediately upon the conclusion of the conference, Simpson reported, Saudi Arabia announced that it had appointed Mr. Obeid as Saudi Education Minister.
In September 2004, MWL accused "Zionist and Christianizing organizations" of operating in Iraq with the aim of weakening Islam in the war-torn country. MWL remarked that it "noticed the infiltration of biased foreign organizations into Iraq, including Zionist and Christianizing ones, to implement programs aimed at corrupting youth and weakening their Islamic and patriotic awareness."
Saudi Charitable Organizations
A discussion of Saudi-based government sanctioned international organizations or charities such as the Muslim World League (MWL), the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), or the Al-Haramain Foundation, and their spokesmen, requires the recognition of two distinct crucial issues:
The first is the propagation of Islam in the manner as is practiced by the Saudi individuals or organizations in question, and the second is the knowing or unknowing use of money, auspices and assets from such charities that have aided terrorist entities. While there may be, often, an intertwining of these two issues, they are two separate and distinct problems that are causing enormous reverberations around the world.
According to the 9-11 Commission's finding: "While Saudi domestic charities are regulated by the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, charities and international relief agencies such as the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), are currently regulated by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. This Ministry uses zakat and government funds to spread Wahabi beliefs throughout the world."
The international export of the Wahabi version of Islam began with the Muslim World League ("MWL"), set up in 1962 by the royal Saud family, to promote Islamic unity, and to spread its view of Islam. After the 1991 Gulf War, when the Saudis angered the Brotherhood and other extremists in the kingdom by seeking help from the U.S., the Saudi government set up a new charity -- the Al Haramain Foundation -- to spread Islam beyond the Middle East, and to counter the Brotherhood's influence. The government's Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowment, Call and Guidance ("Ministry of Islamic Affairs") was organized in 1993 to export Wahabism around the world.
Over the course of several years, from 2002 through 2005, the U.S. Treasury, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the United Nations designated various international branches and individuals associated with of one of the largest Saudi-based charitable organizations, Al Haramain Foundation (AHF), as supporters of terrorism.
As recently as July 2005, Stuart Levey, the U.S. Treasury's Under Secretary for Terrorism & Financial Crimes, noted that "Saudi Arabian charities, particularly the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), the World Association [sic] of Muslim Youth (WAMY), and the Muslim World League (MWL) continue to cause us concern." Senator Charles Schumer issued letters on September 17, 2003 calling upon Treasury Secretary Snow and Attorney General John Ashcroft "to open a criminal investigation and immediately freeze the assets" of WAMY "in the wake of a new report...suggesting links to Hamas, Saudi Arabia and terrorism."
Both the MWL and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth have long been primary financial and religious instruments by which the Saudi regime propagated Wahabism. According to a GAO report issued in September 2005, the interconnectivity between the Saudi government, non-governmental organizations, and "private" foundations and funding is so intertwined and advanced that it would be impossible to unravel the terrorist financing even if the Saudi government wanted to do it. The GAO report continued as follows:
Various government and non-government sources report that Saudi funding and export of a particular version of Islam that predominates in Saudi Arabia has had the effect, whether intended or not, of promoting the growth of religious extremism globally. In the 1960s, funding of religious outreach activities overseas became a central feature of Saudi policy through organizations such as the Muslim World League and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth. Activities of these organizations include providing medicine and food and building mosques, schools, and shelters. The Saudi donations to support its aid efforts and the spread of its religious ideology come from public and private sources and are channeled through a variety of foundations and middlemen to recipients around the world. Saudi Arabia's multibillion-dollar petroleum industry, although largely owned by the government, has fostered the creation of large private fortunes, enabling many wealthy Saudis to sponsor charities and educational foundations whose operations extend to many countries. U.S. government and other expert reports have linked some Saudi donations to the global propagation of religious intolerance, hatred of Western values, and support to terrorist activities.
MWL and WAMY continue to operate around the world with dozens of international offices. MWL has two offices in the United States, one in northern Virginia and the second in New York City. The Virginia office was raided by the FBI in March 2002 as part of an investigation into a large network of Virginia-based Islamic charities and corporate entities suspected of having ties to terrorist groups. It was again raided in July 2005. Its current US director, Abdullah Al-Noshen, was arrested for immigration fraud and is now awaiting trial. The assistant director of that office, Khalid Fadlalah, was arrested and subsequently pled guilty to lying on immigration documents to enable Al-Noshen to work in the United States.
Most recently, the role of MWL in funding extremists in the United States came to light in the trial of Ali Al-Tamimi, the American-Muslim spiritual leader of Dar Al-Arqam Islamic Center in northern Virginia, arrested on terrorism charges after 9-11. He was convicted this year for soliciting treason, seditious conspiracy and conspiracy to wage war against the United States. At his trial, one of his defense witnesses was his successor at Dar Al-Arqam, Yousef Idris. Idris said he was employed by MWL and served at the same time as the primary lecturer at Dar Al-Arqam. Under cross examination by Assistant US Attorney Gordon Kromberg, Idris stated he agreed with Tamimi (a Sunni cleric) that Shiites should have their heads cut off if they did not repent. Government officials and other sources have described Dar Al Arqam as a center for radical Islamic supporters who have routinely heard Islamic lectures and sermons demonizing the United States, the West and Jews. Not insignificantly, Dar Al-Arqam is located at 360 South Washington in Arlington Virginia, the same address as MWL.
The Muslim World League issues several publications and also runs several websites featuring both English and Arabic components. Although many of the links on the multiple MWL websites are now inactive, the primary Saudi-based MWL website offers access to Islamic religious rulings, fatwas. One such fatwa posted on this site betrays the organization's intolerance for other religions, "Establishing schools and public facilities such as hospitals and others in the land of Kufar [infidels] is one of the necessities of Dawah [propagation of Islam] and the tools of Jihad for the sake of Allah" as it "protects the Muslims' religious beliefs and identity against the Christian and non-religious institutions."
Another section of the MWL website defends Jihad: "Jihad in Islam was legislated to uphold truth, to defend the oppressed, and to implement justice...and in defense of the homeland against the occupation of land and plundering of wealth, and against he colonial settlement that drives people out of their homes, and against those who support and help the expulsion from homes."
The MWL position paper continued, "We cannot equate the terrorism and violence of tyrants who exploit countries and desecrate its honors and sanctuaries and plunder the wealth, and the practice of the legitimate defense, whereby the weak strive to grasp their legitimate right in self determination."
The current Canadian MWL website has posted various publications and tracts that attack Judaism and Christianity as being "false" religions, denigrate the Bible as being "corrupted," and legitimize the Islamic religious punishments of amputations. In referring to Jews, for example, the MWL Canadian website says as follows:
In the scriptures of Jews we notice that the concept of life after death is a vague one. It is, in fact, a materialistic concept, and it is also a racist one. For Jews God is a pro-Jewish Lord. He gives them the right to crush and eliminate all other nations who are called Goyim (non-Jews). These people do not deserve to be human and naturally do not qualify to enter Heaven. It is a concept of bias, hatred and racism.
Hamas Offices in Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia's repeated claims that it does not harbor or finance terrorists or terrorist organizations are belied by recent events. In an arrest weeks ago in Jerusalem, Israeli security forces uncovered a Hamas operation with direct links to Saudi Arabia. Officials apprehended senior Hamas operative Ya'akub Abu Assab, of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Souana, after raids on suspected Hamas offices. Through the course of interrogation, Israeli officials discovered that Assab was not only the top Hamas official in Jerusalem, but that he also acted as a liaison between Hamas offices in Jerusalem and in Saudi Arabia. According to Israeli officials, Assab was in frequent contact with the Saudi offices via the Internet. Assab, who traveled freely with an Israeli ID, is said to have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Hamas offices in Saudi Arabia, as well as instruction for Hamas operations. The officials noted that the money was transferred from Saudi Arabia through couriers and moneychangers and was used to support the families of Palestinian suicide bombers as well as to assist in the funding of operations. As Matthew Levitt recently observed, although Hamas maintains official offices in Syria, Iran, Yemen, and Sudan, this is the first indication of a formal office within the Saudi Kingdom.
Saudi Arabian Support for Palestinian Terrorists: A History
Saudi Arabia has funneled money to Palestinian terrorist groups through terror-linked charities and committees for a number of years. At the onset of the second intifada beginning in October 2000, the Saudi government set up two committees to solicit money for the Palestinians: the Saudi Popular Committee for Assisting the Palestinian Muhajideen and the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Al Quds Intifada. The Saudi Popular Committee for Assisting the Palestinian Mujahideen gave to the PLO, while the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Al Quds Intifada gave to the Palestinian Authority. While both supplied significant support, it was the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Al Quds Intifada, headed by Saudi Prince Nayef bin Abd Al-Aziz, which "served as the main conduit for Saudi financial and material aid to the Palestinian territories since its establishment under Royal Decree 8636 on October 16, 2000."
Purporting to use the funds for humanitarian aid, the Saudi decree required the large banks in the country to set up unified accounts for the fund raising proceeds through the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Al Quds Intifada. Each of the new accounts set up at the bank would be known as "Account 98." From their inception, these accounts proved to be highly successful in raising money. The 2004 Almog civil lawsuit against the Arab Bank alleges that 150,000,000 Saudi riyals ($40 million US) were deposited into these accounts in the first month in Riyadh alone. In April of 2002, Saudi television aired a state-run telethon encouraging donors to raise money for the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Al Quds Intifada. The telethon reportedly raised over $109 million dollars. By December 2003, the Saudi Embassy reported that the total value of "services" handed to the Committee stood at $194,123,924.
In April 2002, Israelis first discovered the link between the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Al Quds Intifada and Palestinian terrorist groups. As part of Operation Defensive Shield, Israel forces raided the Tulkarem Charitable Committee -- long one of Hamas' well-known civilian institutions. Among the documents confiscated from the raid, Israeli officials discovered on a computer a spreadsheet from the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Al Quds Intifada, giving a detailed account to how the Tulkarem Committee received $545,000 from the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Al Quds Intifada to allocate to 102 families of so-called martyrs --roughly $5300 per family. The spreadsheet included the names of eight suicide bombers.
In May 2002, "Israel released a report that alleged the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Al Quds Intifada had transferred large sums of money to families of Palestinians who died in violent events, including notorious terrorists." Saudi officials retorted that the Israeli accusations were "baseless and false." Executive Chairman to the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Al Quds Intifada, Dr. Sa'id Al Urabi Al Harithi, claimed that the Committee had "nothing to do with terrorism."
A report in the New York Times, quoting senior law enforcement individuals, stated that U.S. Treasury and other federal agencies officials began pressing for the Saudi government to monitor more closely the actions of the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Al Quds Intifada out of concern that American banks might be a terrorist conduit for money. This response drew immediate ire from the Saudi government. Nail al Jubeir, spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC, responded that the money did not go to terrorists, because it was monitored by international organizations such as the Red Cross, the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority. He deemed the investigation a "cheap shot."
Following the discovery that the Arab Bank's New York branch may have been involved in suspicious activity, families of the victims of terrorist attacks filed two civil lawsuits against the bank. The 2004 Almog lawsuit alleged that the Saudis established the Account 98 at a number of commercial banks in Saudi Arabia including: Saudi-American Bank, the Saudi-British Bank, the Saudi-Dutch Bank, Saudi-French Bank, National Commercial Bank, and the Arab National Bank. The lawsuit went on to contend that the banks collected donations from willing donors. Once the donations were collected, the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Al Quds Intifada, opened up bank accounts of those they considered "beneficiaries," and deposited the donations into their accounts. In turn, because the donations could not easily be converted to Israeli currency, the Arab Bank instead diverted the funds to its New York branch to be converted to US dollars.
Since its inception, the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Al Quds Intifada has not hidden its support for suicide bombers and other so-called "martyrs." In a list posted on the Committee's website of 1,300 names of individuals considered "beneficiaries," "over 60 match or closely resemble the names of known Palestinian militants, who carried out attacks on Israeli personnel and civilians," including those of suicide bombers.
According to the March 2005 Congressional Research Service ("CRS") Report on Saudi Arabia's ties to terror financing, the following names listed on the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Al Quds Intifada website corresponded to those suspected of being suicide bombers:
* Said Hassan Hussein Hotari--identified as suicide bomber in June 1,
2001, attack on Dolphinarium nightclub in Tel Aviv. Hamas claimed
* Izzedin Shahil Ahmed Masri--identified as suicide bomber in August
9, 2001 attack on Sbarro pizza restaurant in Jerusalem. Hamas
* Maher Muhiaddin Kamel Habeishi--identified as suicide bomber in
December 2, 2001 attack on Haifa bus. Hamas claimed responsibility.
* Wa'fa AH Khalil Idris--female, identified as suicide bomber in
January 27, 2002 street attack in Jerusalem. The Al Aqsa Martyrs
Brigade claimed responsibility.
* Mohammed Ahmed Abdel-Rahman Daraghmeh--identified as suicide bomber
in March 2, 2002 attack on Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in
Jerusalem. The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed responsibility.
The fact that the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Al Quds Intifada was openly supportive of suicide bombers was further underscored when the Committee's Executive Manager Mubarak Al-Biker stated in 2002, "[w]e support the families of Palestinian martyrs, without differentiating between whether the Palestinian was a bomber or was killed by Israeli troops."
And despite the Saudis' claim of shutting down terror financing, the Saudi government, since the exposure of the Saudi Committee for Support of the Al Quds Intifada links to Hamas, has made only relatively minor changes to prevent charitable donations from falling into the hands of terrorists. In an effort to polish its image in the West, the Saudis changed the name of the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Al Quds Intifada to the Saudi Committee for the Relief of the Palestinian People. In 2002 the Saudi government announced the creation of the High Commission for Oversight of Charities to assist charities in their transparency. In 2003, the Saudi government introduced new banking regulations that prohibit private charities and relief groups from sending money overseas until further inspection has shown that the money was not going to aid terrorist organizations. And in 2004, the Saudis belatedly established the Saudi Nongovernmental Commission on Relief and Charity Work abroad, through which all future private donations would flow. Yet, as of March 2005, according to the 2005 CRS Report, the new Commission "was not operational."
Saudi Arabia: Still Financing Terror?
Therefore, despite these new mechanisms, it appears that Saudi actions to combat terror financing need improvement. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), recently reported that Saudi Iqra TV aired a program on August 29, 2005 in which its hosts encouraged viewers to support "jihad" and to donate money to the Palestinian cause. Claiming that "jihad is the pinnacle of Islam", Secretary General of the Saudi government's Muslim World League Koran Memorization Commission, Sheikh Abdallah Basfar, implored those who watched to donate money the Palestinians:
Allah tempts you. If you give money, you'll be rewarded. But he threatens you that if you don't give money, and you are stingy in spending your money for the sake of Allah, you should expect punishment from Allah, because Jihad is the protection of land and honor. It's a most important thing. When you repel evil from your brothers in Palestine, you repel it from yourself and from your country, your family, your daughters, and your sons. Don't think you are only protecting them - you are also protecting yourself. Furthermore, Allah is trying you with this money. Allah is testing you to see whether you spend this money for His sake. Hence, he who refrains from fighting and from donating money for the sake of Allah, Allah inflicts disaster or catastrophe upon him before Judgment Day.
During the program a caption on the screen directed donors to send money, not to the renamed Saudi Committee for the Relief of the Palestinian People, but to the Saudi Committee for Support of the Al Quds Intifada (Intifada Committee) and Account 98.
Saudi Websites Promoting Extremism
Like the incendiary sermons televised on Saudi Arabian television, there are Saudi government websites that continue to espouse extremist statements. The website www.al-islam.com which is the official website of the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Da'wah and Guidance, is one such website.
The following hadith (a narration about the life of the Prophet Muhammad) is found on www.al-islam.com: "The Prophet said, 'By Him in Whose Hands my life is! I would love to fight in Allah's cause and get killed then get resurrected and then get killed, and then get resurrected again and then get killed.'" This hadith is often used by the Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to encourage Muslims to join the jihad.
The following hadiths, featured on the Saudi Ministry website, discuss the day of resurrection and the obligation of Muslims:
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "By Him in Whose Hands my soul is! Whoever is wounded in Allah's Cause...and Allah knows well who gets wounded in His Cause...will come on the Day of Resurrection with his wound having the color of blood but the scent of musk."
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say, 'O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.'"
Narrated Abdullah bin Umar: Allah's Apostle said, "You [Muslims] will fight with the Jews until some of them will hide behind stones. The stones will [betray them] saying, 'O Abdullah [slave of Allah]! There is a Jew hiding behind me; so kill him.'"
Although the website offers hadiths on a variety of different subjects, not all referring specifically to the jihad, it is clear that these statements praise and encourage the jihad, for example:
I heard Allah's Apostle saying, The example of a Mujahid in Allah's Cause -- and Allah knows better who really strives in His Cause -- is like a person who fasts and prays continuously. Allah guarantees that He will admit the Mujahid in His Cause into Paradise if he is killed, otherwise He will return him to his home safely with rewards and war booty.
In addition to posting religiously incendiary material, the website of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Da'wah and Guidance has a link to the website of Sheikh Abduaziz Bin Baz, the late Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia. Bin Baz was the chief sanctioned voice of the Saudi kingdom. Though Bin Baz was attacked by the most stringent of Salafi Muslim radicals as a munifiq (traitor) for his cooperation with the Saudi royal family, Bin Baz himself has backed militant confrontations with the West. In his book The Ideological Attack, he repeatedly claims that there is a Zionist and "Christian crusader" plot against Islam. Bin Baz had appeared repeatedly as a guest for the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO). He has also had contacts with various prominent members of Al Qaeda including Hassan Al Suraihi, who fought alongside Bin Laden in Afghanistan.
The English version of the website, http://www.binbaz.org.sa/aboutus_eng.asp, features an "about us" section which claims that one of its purposes is:
Keeping in touch with Muslims and non-Muslims through Sheikh ibn Baz's approach in all parts of the world, and to demonstrate the humanitarian aspect of the Islamic faith and its address to all mankind. That will only be possible by the reinforcement of the approach of tolerance and moderation called for by Sheikh ibn Baz during his life or via his books and lectures after his death.
And yet, despite the message of "tolerance and moderation" in English, the Arabic site of binbaz.org continues to post an article entitled, "What is meant by Jihad?," wherein Bin Baz states:
It was proven that the prophet -- peace and blessings of Allah be upon him -- collected the Jizya [tax] from the Magi of Hajr, so these three kinds of Kufar [Infidels], the Jews, Christians and the Magi, it was written that they should pay Jizya, It is a duty that Jihad should be waged against them and that they be fought when there is a capability until they convert to Islam or pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued, as for others ; it's a duty -- according to the scholars -- to fight them until they convert because the prophet -- peace and blessings of Allah be upon him -- fought the Arabs until they converted in multitudes to the religion of Allah and they were not asked to pay Jizya.
Similarly, in a section on the website called "Articles and Fatwas," this Bin Baz writing is posted:
Jihad in Allah's cause is among the best offerings, and the great obedience, indeed it is the best offering by the givers and what to competitors (to satisfy Allah) competed to do after the (religious) duties. That's only because it results in the victory of the believers, the lifting of the faith higher, the suppression of the infidels and the hypocrites and the facilitation of spreading Islam among people of the universe.
One final example of Bin Baz's views on Christians and Jews featured on the Arabic binbaz.org website comes from his article, "Warning Against the Schemes of the Enemies," in which he states:
Allah has foretold us about it in His glorious book when He said 'Nor will they cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith if they can.' The Almighty also said 'Never will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with thee unless thou follow their form of religion.'
The World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), its History of Radicalism, Summer Camps and a New Lobby
WAMY is heavily supported by the Saudi Government. Its Washington, D.C. office was once headed by Osama bin Laden's nephew, Abdullah Bin Laden. When Ahmad Ajaj was arrested in 1992 while trying to enter the U.S. with Ramzi Yousef, investigators found among Ajaj's belongings a WAMY envelope with the organization's Saudi Arabia address. The envelope contained a manual entitled "Military Lessons in the Jihad against the Tyrants." Both Yousef and Ajaj were later convicted for their roles in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
In addition, WAMY has actively promoted religious hatred through the publication of such books as Islamic Views, printed in Arabic by the Armed Forces Printing Press of the Saudi Government. Islamic Views teaches that Islam "is a religion of Jihad" and that Jihad "was an answer for the Jews, the liars." Islamic Views also advises Muslims to [t]each our children to love taking revenge on the Jews and the oppressors, and teach them that our youngsters will liberate Palestine and Al Quds when they go back to Islam and make Jihad for the sake of Allah. Although this publication still circulates in the United States and in the United Kingdom, there is no evidence that it has been republished by WAMY or the Saudi government.
In October 2005, Saleh Wohaibi, Secretary General of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), complained that "WAMY and other charitable organizations suffered a loss of image as they were linked to terrorism by the Western, more specifically, the American media." It is no small irony that he complained that WAMY summer camps will suffer due to loss in revenue. According to the Kingdom's Arab News, Wohaibi said "the best way to wean youth away from undesirable activities was to install sound values based on Islamic teachings. 'That's what the summer camps were about...'"
WAMY did indeed run summer camps that Wohaibi laments as a loss. The following is an excerpt from an officially sanctioned song to be performed by campers, as printed in an English-language WAMY camp training manual:
Youth of [Islam] are the guided youth. Come! Come to a final decision: The Prophet has called out and so has the Qur'an. So blessed is the servant who responds when he is called... Bring back the glory to its lions, and restore the zeal to its soldiers. Flatten evil in its cradle, and unsheath the swords... Hail! Hail! O sacrificing soldiers! To us! To us! So we may defend the flag. On this Day of Jihad, are you miserly with your blood?!
A WAMY camp in Florida was graced by the presence of Suleman Ahmer, the former operations manager in the United States of Benevolence International Foundation (BIF). The U.S. government shut down BIF for financially supporting Al Qaeda in December 2001. Ahmer was an unabashed supporter of cooperation with radical Islamic movements around the world. In an October 1997 letter to Arnaout, Ahmer expressed surprise that the organization would even claim to sponsor relief activities: "[W]e have never worked in the countries which are affected by natural disasters and... we may never work in this area. But somehow in so many of our publications we have that BIF works in areas affected by wars and natural disasters. I wonder where it came from and so on." Ahmer managed to convince Arnaout and the other BIF administrators to create two mission statements, one detailing supposed relief work for public consumption and one an internal document emphasizing "making Islam supreme" for the benefit of the fundamentalist board members.
In a lecture given on July 26, 1996 at a WAMY camp in Okeechobee, Florida, Ahmer told the campers:
...[T]he Bosnians were well away from Islam... They couldn't even say the word "jihad." They used to call "mujahedin," "muhajedin." It took them many months to learn the right word.
But, Ahmer insisted that the effort was not made in vain; after witnessing the fearlessness of the foreign mujahideen battalion loyal to Al-Qaida, the Bosnians responded, "if this really, if this is what Islam teaches you, we are fools if we don't practice Islam."
According to Wohaibi, WAMY camps are among the programs affected by the reported 20 percent drop in revenue. "Now with nothing much to keep them usefully occupied, they spend the whole day sleeping at home during the summer vacation. And when they get up, they drive off to spend the night in the desert."
In response to the disclosures of WAMY support for extremism, al-Wohaibi continues to blame the media. "This kind of hostile campaign is still going on in the American media. We are conducting a public relations campaign through the U.S. media. With the help of some Saudi organizations we have established Friends of Charity Association (FOCA), which is a lobbying group in Washington. It's doing a good job in trying to reach out to government officials, congressmen and the media as part of our effort to explain our activities and remove misconceptions."
Yet sophisticated lobbying and public relations blitzes aside, the agenda of these groups remains the same today as it was years ago. In May 2004 the New York Times published a story on the question of reform in Saudi Arabia which discussed how "[t]he religious establishment feels it already lost one round this academic year when the lesson directing Muslims to shun non-Muslims was removed from religious textbooks. Some Saudis wanted it deleted because the principle was used to justify terrorist attacks, but conservative clerics depicted the change as the first step by the West in dismantling the country's religion through the education system.
"Saying that the Jews and the Christians are infidels is part of our religious dogma," said Saleh S. al-Wohaibi, the American-educated secretary general of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth. Any changes in the way it is taught should be decided by Saudis, he said, adding, "It doesn't mean we try to incite hatred against others, but my religion has its own principles that should not be violated or changed."
FOCA, headquartered in Washington D.C., is comprised of the Muslim World League (MWL) the International Islamic Relief Organization, (IIRO), World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, Al Muntada and Makkah Al-Mukarama Charity Foundation. In a most telling move, when Al-Haramain was ordered shut down by Saudi Arabia, FOCA held a press conference at WAMY headquarters to attack the decision.
Saudi Clerical Intolerance and Support for Jihad
On November 5, 2004, a fatwa called an "Open Sermon to the Militant Iraqi People" was delivered at Friday prayers. The fatwa was signed by 26 Saudi clerics including Dr. Sheikh Mahdi Mohammad Rashad Al Hakmi "who described himself, in a 2002 petition he also signed as a regional director for WAMY in the Saudi province or Jazan." Excerpts from the fatwa state:
Without a doubt, fighting the occupiers is a duty of [all] who [are] able. It is a "defense jihad," and it comes under the law of rebutting the aggressor. It does not require a jihad of initiative or demand. It [defense jihad] does not require leadership but is employed as much as possible, as God said: "Be as pious as much as you can...."
We call on our Muslim brothers in the world to stand by their brothers in Iraq with sincere prayers and support as much as possible...
Signed by prominent and influential Sunni clerics like Shiekh Salman Al Awda, Sheikh Awadh Al Qarni, and Sheikh Hatem Al Ooni , the fatwa, as noted by MEMRI, was widely regarded as a call to all Muslims to go to Iraq and fight the U.S. troops and their allies. Young men from Saudi responded in large numbers by going to Iraq to fight.
A review of Saudi newspapers, websites, sermons and broadcasts show that Saudi clerics continue to preach incitement, hatred, and jihad. (In this critical effort, MEMRI has been instrumental and pivotal in translating materials from Saudi Arabia in addition to its translation and analysis of the Arab and Muslim media and websites.) Recurrent themes have included the need to fight the conspiratorial efforts of Christians and Jews, raging anti-Americanism and theological anti-Semitism, support for violent jihad, incitement against U.S. troops in Iraq, and the mandated Islamic conquest of the world.
Sheikh Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sudayyis, the Saudi government appointed imam of the Grand Mosque of Mecca, has called Jews "scum of the earth" and "monkeys and pigs" who should be "annihilated." Similarly, he referred to other enemies of Islam as "worshippers of the cross" and "idol worshipping Hindus." As MEMRI's Steven Stalinsky noted in The New York Sun, in a sermon on February 1, 2004, at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Al-Sudayyis called on Muslims worldwide "to defeat all their occupiers and oppressors":
They [the Jews] are killers of prophets and the scum of the earth. Allah hurled his curses and indignation on them and made them monkeys and pigs and worshippers of tyrants. These are the Jews, a continuous lineage of meanness, cunning, obstinacy, tyranny, evil, and corruption...
In another sermon broadcast on Saudi TV Channel 1 on April 2, 2004, Al-Sudayyis discussed Jewish history and the modern Jihad. The following are excerpts from the discourse:
The history of the [Jewish] people is written in black ink, and has included a series of murders of the prophets, the Mujaheedin, and righteous people. This although the book descended upon Moses is all mercy. Allah has said: "And is preceded by the Book of Moses which has a guide and a mercy for people before him..." So where is this mercy in all barbarity, devoid of moral and human values? But maybe it is the beginning of their end.
Oh Brothers in the land of missions and the cradle of valor, Oh Sons of brave Mujaheedin, Oh descendents of conquering heroes... You have revived the hopes of this nation through your blessed Jihad. By Allah, be patient until, with Allah's help, one of two good things will be awarded you: either victory or martyrdom. Our hearts are with you; our prayers are dedicated to you. The Islamic nation will not spare money or effort in support of your cause, which is the supreme Muslim cause, until the promise made by Allah, who never breaks a promise, is fulfilled.
Al-Sudayyis continued his virulent ranting in his July 15, 2005 sermon:
"Oh Allah, liberate our Al-Aqsa Mosque from the defilement of the occupying and brutal Zionists... Oh Allah, punish the occupying Zionists and their supporters from among the corrupt infidels. Oh Allah, scatter and disperse them, and make an example of them for those who take heed."
Supporting the Iraqi Insurgency
This concept was clearly stated regarding the war in Iraq. As first reported by MEMRI, on November 5, 2004, a communiqué was signed by 26 Saudi clerics, several of whom held positions as lecturers of Islamic studies at different government supported universities and colleges in Saudi Arabia. Because of the prominent standing of the signatories within the Islamic community, the communiqué was broadly viewed as a fatwa (religious ruling). The communiqué supporting the resistance against coalition forces in Iraq as an Islamic duty, posted on http://www.islamtoday.net, includes this language:
There is no doubt that the Jihad against the occupiers is an obligation upon any able person. This is a type of Jihad whose aim is to repel the aggressor, and it is not bound by the conditions that hold for an intentional Jihad; thus there is no need for a supreme leadership [i.e., a Caliph who would declare Jihad], but rather the matter is undertaken according to [each Muslim's] ability ... these occupiers are undoubtedly military aggressors, and there is a legal consensus concerning [the obligation] to fight them so that they will leave in humiliation, Allah willing. In addition, worldly law also recognizes a people's right to resistance.... It is forbidden for any Muslim to offer any help whatsoever to the occupying soldiers' military operations, since this is aiding crime and aggression...
Despite claims by its defenders that the communiqué was aimed primarily at Iraqis, there were reports of young Muslim men from across the Islamic world that understood it to mean a call to wage Jihad in Iraq and traveled to the country for that purpose. For example, Abd Al-Rahim bin Muhammad bin 'Abdallah Al-Muteiri, a terrorist from Al-Ahsaa in Saudi Arabia captured in Iraq, said during his interrogation on the Iraqi TV channel Al-Iraqiya on March 31, 2005: "I hadn't thought of coming to Iraq, but I had fatwa (calling for Jihad )... I read the communiqué of the 26 clerics..."
On Saudi TV Channel 1 in response to a question as to whether it is acceptable to pray for the annihilation of Jews and Christians, Sheikh Ahmad bin Abd Al-Latif, a professor at the Saudi Um Al-Qura University, said: "Cursing the oppressing Jews and the oppressing and plundering Christians and the prayer that Allah will annihilate them is permitted."
Conclusion: Friend or Foe?
The attacks of 9-11 made clear that the problem of Saudi sponsored extremism could not be considered a domestic Saudi problem any longer. In the United States, the repercussions of the export of militant Islam could be seen in the radical Islamic charities and entities operating under false cover. For decades prior to 9-11, Saudi finances, ideology and books poured into the United States without any scrutiny, leading to the creation of radical Islamic organizations, charities, centers, prison groups and schools in the United States. By 2005, however, the overt Saudi fingerprints had dissipated, but the damage had already been done. Radical Islamic organizations have tried to disguise themselves as "mainstream." Borrowing a page from their radical religious patrons who portray themselves as the "victims" of an American "war against Islam," Islamic groups here in the United States have routinely issued the same allegation in trying to intimidate critics of militant Islam here in the United States. And nowhere was this more clearly seen than following the release of the Freedom House report, which various Islamic leaders and groups contended was an "attack on Islam" or that it would result in "hate crimes" against American Muslims. The attack on Freedom House was led by groups like CAIR (the Council on American Islamic Relations) which itself has been the long time beneficiary of Saudi-generated funds as well as the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), also a beneficiary. (See Appendix attached to testimony on CAIR statements and CAIR's Saudi funding.) Similar language is used in attempts by these and other American based apologists and propagandists to intimidate those interested in frank discussion of militant Islam in American media and academe.
The biggest question mark for policymakers in determining policy towards Saudi Arabia is how to come up with metrics for determining Saudi compliance with anti-terror initiatives, especially those agreed to or announced by Saudi officials. Too often however, in an effort to assuage Saudi feelings, the U.S. government has tiptoed around the issue of confronting the Saudis about the discrepancies between their representations to American officials and what they actually are doing. Sometimes, US government officials have actually legitimized radical Saudi organizations. For example, in 2004, the US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, James Oberwetter, attended the 2nd annual Iftar dinner hosted by WAMY in Riyadh, a fact that WAMY proudly displayed in a photo and story on its website.
As noted earlier, the Government Accountability Office ("GAO") issued an important report ("Information on US Agencies' Efforts to Address Islamic Extremism") in September 2005 that dealt with the problems encountered in identifying, monitoring and combating the spread of Islamic extremism. The report reached some startling conclusions regarding the shortfalls in U.S. intelligence about the follow-through by Saudi Arabia in enacting its anti-terror declarations.
Among the conclusions reached by GAO were the following:
? The U.S. does not know whether Saudi Arabia has followed through on its promise to revise its educational curricula to ensure that they do not propagate extremism.
? The U.S. does not know whether Saudi Arabia has implemented its plans to close the Al-Haramain Foundation.
? The U.S. does know the extent of "Saudi efforts to limit the activities of Saudi sources" that have promoted extremism abroad.
Earlier this year, the CRS issued a report titled, "Saudi Arabia: Terrorist Financing Issues." According to that March 1 report, the counter-terrorist banking regulations introduced by the Saudi government in May 2003 do not include oversight over "multilateral" charitable organizations based in Saudi Arabia such as the Muslim World League, the International Islamic Relief Organization and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth.
But in the end, in order for the U.S. to make an informed set of policy decisions, it is imperative that we not fool ourselves as to the degree to which Saudi Arabia is tethered to radical doctrine.
It might be argued that Saudi Arabia, given its Wahabist roots, is incapable of changing a national identity so rooted in a radical Islamic tradition. The regime therefore is a contradiction, trying to balance its role as a responsible financial superpower and modern state with its Wahabist self-defining historical and religious legacy. To be sure, the regime will seek to placate the United Sates and lessen the build-up of outside pressure by periodically announcing an anti-terror initiative. But these external pressures have to be and remain very firm and clear if they are to counterbalance the pressures either in favor of radicalism, or at least of those elements who wish to seek an accommodation with it.
In the end, the very question at the core of this hearing--whether Saudi Arabia is a friend or foe--highlights the fact that Saudi Arabia essentially has tried to be on both sides of the fence. In its economic-industrial relationship with the West, primarily expressed through oil production and investment, the regime wants to project itself as an ally of the United States. But in its political-religious identification, Saudi Arabia for years has cultivated, nurtured and fomented a radical Islamic doctrinal view that sees the United States, the West, Christians, Jews and all other "infidels" as bent on a conspiracy to subjugate Islam.
In the end, unless it is made to view changes as the price of its survival, the Saudi government will not change. Its one constant interest is survival; when one loses power, one loses everything -- wealth and even security. No one retires to a think tank in California or Washington DC. Survival is a constant balancing act, like a person dancing on a log in midstream. Further, we should remember that the Saudi government is the collective rule of a family. Within this arrangement, different groups will have different appreciations of the situation and will stress different aspects of the general balancing act. Some members of the Family are much more hostile to the US than others.
Since World War II, the Saudis have tried to balance commercial and strategic cooperation with the US with the cultivation of a radical anti-western version of Islam. On the one hand, virtually every Middle Eastern Muslim government has sought, since the rise of Western power in the 19th century, to maneuver between outside pressure and internal opposition. The ideal solution has been to play these forces off against each other. In the Saudis' case, having the Muslim holy sites on their territory has prompted the support of Muslim groups worldwide in a form of ideological competition. It has also been a long established practice of Middle Eastern governments to seek to divert turbulent groups and ambitions onto the territory of others.
On 9/11 the two wings of this policy came into conflict. It is possible that, given increasing globalization, the Saudi double game was doomed to blow up one way or another. What we now see is a Saudi attempt to regain control over the process by clamping down on the specifically anti-Saudi elements (like al-Qaeda) diverting those that can be diverted, co-opting those that can be co-opted, while seeking to mollify the U.S. as much as can be done without upsetting the internal balance. Although Saudi Royal Family declarations in the past year have committed the regime towards an opening up of the political process, the reality is that the regime itself will never probably fulfill any of the long terms commitments to democratize, as that would assuredly result in the removal of the regime itself. As the radical Islamists have recognized, the route to power in Saudi Arabia is simply to repeat the mantra of "democracy," eliciting the sympathetic ear of the US government officials, which naively believes that pluralism would be a sine qua non of "democratic" elections in Saudi Arabia. To be fair, however, in Saudi Arabia, we have witnessed since 9-11 a nascent political reform movement that is genuinely committed to civil society and pluralism. These reformers deserve our full support. (Appendix includes an article about this movement.)
The basic problem is that the interests of the two most powerful strata of Saudi society, the Saudi ruling elite (a family business) and the religious establishment-- are intrinsically not compatible with ours. The U.S. believes in capitalism, democracy, freedom, separation of church and state, and for most of our citizens, a constant progress to a world of greater equality between people of different backgrounds. The Saudi elites and religious establishment do not believe in capitalism, or democracy or gender equality. What we call freedom they think of as chaos. We believe in progress, both material and moral. But large segments of Saudi society see the secular western world as the warped construction of a conspiracy of Jews, socialists, Christian missionaries and what-have-you.
Only in one area do our interests concord. They sell oil; we buy it. During the cold war this commercial cooperation was doubled by a strategic one. The Saudis saw communism as both the antithesis of Islam and, in the USSR, as the main support for the leftist movements and regimes in the Arab world that sought to put them (and other regional monarchies) out of business. If US policy is the democratization of the region, then our interests and those of the Saudi royal family are not compatible, since the royal family system would not survive the democratization of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi paradox is only a sharper version of the one in the region as a whole. For the last thirty years the Muslim Middle East has witnessed a rise in traditional religion. In the Muslim world, this religious revival has been accompanied by the rise of political Islam ("Islamism"). Political Islam is populist, utopian, anti-western, internally totalitarian and externally aggressive (though it sees itself as defensive). Wahabism seeks to exploit one branch of this movement. But the movement touches all subgroups of Islam. Iran is a case in point, since the Imami Shi'ism of Iran is about as far theologically from Saudi Wahabism as one can be. Yet both are radically anti-western and anti-modern.
Ultimately, we need to make a hardheaded assessment of whether Saudi Arabia is capable of changing. By not pressing the Saudis to truly make demonstrable progress in the war against Islamic extremism, current policies have only postponed the day of reckoning. There are many pressure points in our arsenal of political and economic options that have not yet been deployed against Saudi Arabia. Four years after 9-11, the Saudis have had ample time to respond to our policy of silent diplomacy in asking them to shut down the religious, financial and political spigots of Islamic terrorism. Now is the time to publicly hold them to account. In the end, our future-- and theirs as well-- depend upon the response that is forthcoming.